Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Giving Up

Today is Ash Wednesday, which for many Christians, starts the period of Lent. I did not grow up in a church that observed Lent, but many of my friends did, and each year I saw them giving something up "for Lent."

Generally, there was something they saw as a vice and they decided to forgo it for 40 days. That vice might be ice cream. Or chocolate. Or alcohol. I remember one of my friends trying to give up cursing.

And when the 40 days had passed, there was a celebration because now they were permitted to do these things again. Sometimes there would more ice cream eating or alcohol drinking (or cursing) than there was before, because the desire to do so had been supressed for so long.

As an outsider to this tradition, it always struck me as a bit odd. I could understand the idea of giving something up. But if we were giving it up because it was "bad," then why not give it up for good? And why were sweets bad at some times and OK at others?

From a nondual perspective, the idea that there are bad parts of ourselves that need to be excised is a duality--just a concept created by our minds. If we look for that line between the good parts and the bad parts, we simply cannot find it. What is it that we are looking to remove?

Each day I do things that I regret. But there is nothing that I can do about having done them. We cannot remake the past. We can apologize, we can try to heal relationships that might have been damaged by our actions. But that route feels more like accepting than denying. And it feels like it is more about embracing what is happening in this moment, than regretting what has happened in the past.

Can we embrace all the aspects of ourselves, even those we don't like? Can we, just for one moment, give up the notion that there is something to hide, or protect, or defend?


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